3-Hour French Bread

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I don’t know where this recipe originated, but it was passed along to me by my friend, Tiffany.  My son and I were able to have some delightful first, second and third experiences with this tasty bread during a recent visit with Tif and her family.  Let’s just say that we enjoyed it…a lot.  So, we brought home the recipe.

Tiffany and I met in college some twenty years ago.  We have a lot of similar interests–baking, gardening, reading and loving on our families.  She and I do some of the same weird things–homeschool, drive really old vehicles whose “check engine” lights are almost always on and re-use storage bags and parchment paper.  We appreciate one another’s differences, too.  We don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, and we’re okay with that.  Really, Tif’s greatest flaw is that she thinks Double-Stuf Oreos are disgusting.  Obviously, she’s wrong…but I can overlook that.

One of the things that I love most about Tiffany is that I can count on her to tell me the truth in love.  For the better part of a year, I went through a rough patch of adulthood.  I’m not sure exactly what all was the problem, but I felt a desperation and an isolation that was mostly new to me.  I felt out of control and lost and so very, very lonely.  It was awful.  My perspective was so emotion-driven that it was skewed.  I knew that it was skewed, but I had a hard time keeping myself together.

My friend heard my heart.  She did not trivialize my pain.  She did not condescend to my choices.  She just repeatedly pointed me to Christ.  She reminded me that my standard can be found in Him and that He is a safe place for my aching heart.  She encouraged me to set aside time to just praise Him–to bask in His love and goodness.  I knew all of these things already, but my soul was struggling to act on these truths.  She was one of the friends whose loving counsel provided me with both motivation and accountability.  I needed both.

Friends, love one another.  Whether it’s an encouraging email, a listening ear or a warm loaf of bread, love the folks around you.  There’s no time like the present.

So, back to the bread…

This is super easy to make and yields consistent results.  And, any leftovers make killer French toast.

3-4 c. flour
2 t. salt
2 t. yeast
1 t. sugar
1 1/2 c. water

Mix 3 c. flour with remaining ingredients.  Knead, adding in approximately 1 c. more of flour.

Cover and let rise in oiled bowl for 1 1/2 hours.

Make two long loaves.  Let rise 1 hour on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

After rising time, make four evenly-placed horizontal slashes on top of loaves.  I’ve found that a serrated knife works well for this.

In preheated 450-degree oven, bake for 20-25 minutes, or until internal temperature is between 190 and 210 degrees.  (To create a traditional French bread crust, preheat an oven-safe pan on the lowest rack.  After placing the unbaked bread in the oven, throw a 1/2-cup of water in the hot dish and quickly close the door.)

Brush with butter while still warm, if desired.  (And why wouldn’t you desire it?)

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Turkey Trouble

Ahhh…a new day.  So far, so good.

Don’t get me wrong.  Yesterday was a good day, too.  It just did not go as planned.  Let me give you a re-cap.

My son and I had just come back from Kentucky, where we’d visited one of my dearest friends and her family.  We had a wonderful time catching up, and we got home Tuesday evening, thankful to be back with Dave and the girls.

I got up yesterday morning, took the puppy out and had my time with Jesus.  I made a list of things I needed to do to catch up from my time away, the first being a quick run to a bulk foods store to pick up a meat order a friend and I were splitting.  Easy enough.

Before I got out the door, I went to check on a young turkey which had apparently sustained an injury while I was gone.  Bad news.  Its leg was broken and it was not in good shape.  (For its own protection, it had been placed in our “clinic” for assessment and recovery.  When this happens, animals tend to thrive…or dive.  This one had clearly done the latter.)  Blah.  I really, really, really dislike dying things.  I don’t especially despise them once they’re fully dead, but animals that are in the process of dying are tough for me.  I now had one of those on my hands.

I made the poor guy as comfortable as possible, informed the kids and headed to pick up my bulk order in order to meet my time deadline.  I would take care of the turkey when I got home.

On the way home, I saw that it looked like we might get rain.  Hallelujah!  We had gotten so dry in the past couple of weeks that we really needed some water.  So thankful for what looked like an answer to prayer on the way.

I got home and began to clean and bag the meat for the freezer.  It was in a huge box, and I didn’t have enough space in the fridge to stash it while I dealt with the turkey, so I was trying to work as quickly as possible.  My son had put the turkey out of its misery, so I felt no major rush to get it dressed out.

Then I heard thunder.  Change of plans.

I passed off the meat preparation to my oldest daughter, whom had been patiently waiting for me to give her a test.  With a small sigh, she graciously took over.  I grabbed my knives and a hatchet and headed outside.

Let me just say that I don’t love butchering things.  I have done it, and I can do it, but I don’t love it.  I truly have to mind-over-matter my way through the processing, thanking God for this sacrifice of life and for the opportunity to grow and eat much of our own food.  I understand that all meat packaged and sold at grocery stores came from living, breathing creatures that had to go through the butchering process before winding up in sanitary-looking, plastic-wrapped packages in supermarket coolers.  I truly do get it.  I actually find great peace in the fact that our animals lived happy, healthy lives up until the point of processing.  But.  I still don’t love butchering things.  To complicate matters, though I had processed many chickens, I had never dressed out a turkey…and I had conveniently avoided dressing out anything for the better part of two years.

I confess that I had toyed with the idea of taking the carcass back into the woods and leaving it for the coyotes.  This would not only get me out of an undesirable task, but it would get me back to what I really needed to be doing–catching up from my trip.  Unfortunately for me, I had recently spent a few hours talking with and listening to the world-renowned Joel Salatin, Farmer Extraordinaire, and had committed to being more responsible with the resources God has given me.  Here I had a young turkey with healthy meat and bones (well, aside from that broken leg) and the knowledge and ability to turn him into food for me family.  It totally seemed like the responsible thing to do.

Bummer for me.

Interestingly, I had just had this conversation with my Kentucky friend:  I like having my hand held when I do something for the first time.  Unlike my remarkably independent and fiercely fearless friend, I like to have someone right beside me to provide guidance, moral support and courage (should courage fail).  This is why I have asked another one of my remarkably independent and fiercely fearless friends to help me butcher a full-grown tom turkey next week.  The bottom line is that I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to this things, and I greatly value the cheerleaders in my life.  Yesterday, however, I was on my own.

So, with tools and turkey in hand, I headed to the woodpile to get ‘er done.

That’s when it started to rain.

Thank You, Lord, for this rain.  (I said over and over and over in my head as it soaked me from head to toe.)

Longer story short, I guessed and fumbled and “oopsed” my way through preparing this young turkey to feed my family.  It wasn’t really pleasant, but it wasn’t really horrible, either.  And, to be honest, I’m pleased and somewhat proud of that 4.24-lb. young turkey resting in our basement fridge.

After the turkey tangent was resolved, I redirected my attention to the day’s activities and got almost everything done.  I even worked in a bit of an afternoon nap, thanks to my kids pitching in to help and being patient with their own to do lists.  The day didn’t look like I thought it would, and it was not as comfortable as I’d hoped, but I did what needed to be done.

The rain moved back in this morning, and (so far) all of the animals seem happy and healthy.  The kids have all taken their tests, and one has even finished her school for the week.  While catching up on laundry and housework, I may even be able to squeeze in a batch of noodles to go with that turkey.

 

September Babies

September isn’t usually a month in which we welcome babies to our little farm.  As a matter of fact, we are usually winding down our commitments this time of year.  2017 is proving to be a bit different in this regard.

A few weeks ago, Farmer Dave and I went to meet Rue, a young heifer who needed a new home.  Since Sir Loin was making his transition from our pasture to our freezer, Red Rose needed a new companion.  One early Saturday morning, I poured my coffee in a travel mug, joined Dave in the old truck and went to look at one of our options.

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We kind of went out on a limb with a local farmer (whom we had not previously known) and told him that we are relatively ignorant on what makes a good calf…and would trust him to be honest with us.  (Yeah, I know.)  He kind of looked at us for a moment and then proceeded to recommended a young heifer from his herd.  This man’s teenage son was listening to the entire exchange, and we took comfort in that the cow looked very healthy AND the son was in on the discussion.  Surely the man was modeling integrity to this boy and not teaching him to be a con artist, right?  So far, so good on Miss Rue.  She has a sweet disposition, and she and Rose are already sharing food and swatting at one another’s flies.

Last weekend, Dave and I planned a little getaway for the two of us that involved a few opportunities to hear Joel Salatin, from Polyface Farms, speak in the Indianapolis area.  I have appreciated much of Salatin’s platform for some time, and I was eager to get Dave’s take on his perspective.  Plus, we had been graciously included in an invitation for a farm-to-table dinner and roundtable discussion with Joel and other local growers and interested parties.  Little did I know that Dave and I would get to have dinner at the same table as special friends AND Joel Salatin!  During our meal, we enjoyed much laughter…and really good food!  (Thank you, Griggsby’s Station and Tyner Pond Farms!)

Anyway, unbeknownst to me, Dave was planning to use our weekend away as an opportunity to pick up another newbie for Country Haven.

Meet Liberty Belle.

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She is an 8-week-old goldendoodle puppy whom we hope to breed.  Over the past 15 months, Dave and the kids have co-invested in two females and a male in the hopes of generating income for school, farm and home expenses.  Miss Libby, as we call her, is adjusting very nicely to life at Country Haven.  We all love her.

One of the things I like least about life on our little farm is that things don’t always go the way we’d like for them to go.  We experienced this a couple of weeks ago with the loss of a couple of dozen broilers (meat chickens) ready for butchering.  It was a sad (and expensive) day, but we learned a valuable lesson in the process.  Since we had planned to tuck that meat away for the winter months, our freezer is a little light on chicken.  To fill in the gap a bit, Dave brought home 20 chicks last night.  They are a mix between amberlinks and buff orpingtons.  We will keep the hens to lay eggs and process the cockerels for our table.  Dave found them for a great price at a nearby farm store, so we felt good about the financial investment.

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There are always so many things to learn in this life, and I am thankful for the opportunities we have to learn them in a safe, peaceful environment.  Seasons come and go, but there are sorrows and gifts in every situation.

Distractification

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Distractification.  This pretty much sums up my life these days.  My mind has been in overdrive, and I am continually trying to redirect my thoughts to whatever I actually need to be thinking about.  It’s been a losing battle.

(By the way, did you know that Charles Dickens made up words to more accurately convey his thoughts?  He also lived long enough to experience celebrity status from his writing.  Definite perk for him.)

I digress.  The point is that my mind has been so easily inundated with the mundane that I’ve had a tough time focusing on my true priorities.  I’ll be working outside in the yard, and a blog idea comes to mind.  I’ll basically be writing it in my head, re-working the language in my mind, kind of getting excited about it…until I notice that my zinnias are on their way out for the summer and I decide to cut one last beautiful bouquet to enjoy indoors.  By the time I make it into the house, bouquet in hand, I’ve lost the flow of whatever I was so looking forward to writing!

(If you want to save seeds from zinnias, all you need to do is cut off the blooms and allow them to fully dry.  Then, over a paper bag, gently rub the heads between your fingers until the seeds separate.  Label the bag so you don’t forget what’s in it and plant the seeds next June.)

Anyway, my focus is all wonky.  My mind is just too busy.

It occurs to me that I need to re-train my brain.  It feels like, at almost 43 years of age, I shouldn’t need a whole lot of re-training, but I am finding that this is just not the case.  I am regularly finding myself in need of re-training on skills and behaviors that should already be tucked safely in my life’s tool belt.

(I went to work on crocheting an unfinished granny square the other day and realized that I needed to get my directions out again.  I’d already crocheted a few dozen of those goofy things, yet, here I was, in need of a refresher.  Ugh!)

Anywho, I’m distracted.  Desperately.

During my quiet time this morning, I realized that I can’t really blame my crazy mental state on anyone but myself.  It is up to me to claim peace in my mind.  I read Colossians 3:2, which says, set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  This verse kind of makes what I think about seem like a choice, doesn’t it.  It almost sounds like I can choose what I noodle.  Huh.

I knew immediately what “earthly things” were, because they rule the roost in my noggin.  It’s all the stuff of life–commitments, concerns, calendars; the unchecked chaos of these things is what has been crowding my brain.  But, what were the “things above”?

In the quiet of the morning, I considered this question.  The first word that came to my mind was peace.

Peace.

I let it play over and over in my mind, actually feeling its presence, basking in its truth.

I then heard the word hope.  Thank You, Jesus, for hope.

Hope was followed by joy.  And joy was followed by mercy.

With the thought of mercy, my eyes filled with tears, and I thanked God for His mercy–the mercy that brings freedom to my life.  The mercy that allows my mind to bask in His peace, hope and joy.

The mercy that allows me to choose.

 

Roadside Hay Baler

You may have passed us last night.  We were on the shoulder of an Indiana state road–old blue Chevy truck and a well-used red hay baler with a flat tire.

It was not our hay baler.  It belongs to our friend, Mark, and we were just borrowing it for a few days.  The last question I asked him before we pulled out of his drive was, “Mark, will you still like Dave if we break this thing?”  He smiled his ready smile and assured us that he would.

I probably should’ve gotten that in writing.

We’d been tooling down the highway, blinkers on, at a cautious 35-40 miles per hour.  We hit a bump, and a sheet of metal flew off of the baler and landed in the opposite lane.  Dave stopped as quickly as he could and ran back to get it.  Fortunately, motorists were paying attention and calamity was avoided.  Whew.  Unfortunately, Dave heard the tire hissing when we threw the sheet of metal in the bed of the truck.

We called our children first.  Due to the kind of long list of outdoor chores we’d left them to do, they did not answer the phone.  (My son assured me this morning that if we’d just let them watch a movie last night instead of mowing, feeding animals, etc., they would have been much more available to take our call.  I told him his observation was duly noted.)  Dave and I discussed calling some of our other neighbors, but we knew Mark was home and had an air tank, so we called him.  (Sorry, Mark.)

Dave and I discussed beef prices, upcoming auctions, his birthday lunch and a few other odds and ends as we sat on the side of the road.  I was acutely thankful for the folks who slowed down and went around us; it made a big difference in my personal peace of mind.  We also kind of chuckled about the shirtless guy who kept appearing at his front door window and peering out at us.  The beveled glass gave him a unique appearance at best.  I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking as he periodically materialized in the window.  I wonder if he had an air tank.

Mark got there as soon as he could, and we were glad.  Dusk was setting in, and there were no lights on the baler.  He aired up the tire, threw his tank in the bed and encouraged us to get moving, stopping as necessary to put in more air.

At our first opportunity, we turned off of the state road onto a country lane and bumped our way along toward home.  The potholes did the tire no favors, but we certainly felt it was a safer alternative to the highway.  We continued to stop to air it up as needed.

A couple of miles from home, the tank ran out of air.  Dave slowed down and tried to avoid bumps, but it was to no avail.  The goofy tire needed more air.  We called our oldest daughter, now in from mowing, and instructed her on filling and loading the air compressor.  She went to work on following orders.  We were about a quarter of a mile from our driveway at this point, and Dave wondered if he could pull up into the drive to at least get off of our narrow road.  He started to ease forward, and the tire fell apart, shredded.

By this time, it was almost totally dark.  Our neighbor, Adam, chose this time to step out of his barn.  Fortunately for us, he was wearing his superhero cape.  After a few moments of catching him up to speed on the situation, he had us back the baler into his driveway, brought out his heavy-duty jack and he and Dave were working to remove the tire.

Another blessing.

At this point, our daughter had appeared with the air compressor at this point, so I went with her up to the house and Dave soon followed.  We were home and the baler was safely boarded at Adam’s for the night.

What Dave and I thought would be about an hour together turned out to be more than two.  I don’t know that he or I would’ve chosen these exact circumstances for our date, but the time together was good.  We were reminded of how good people can be and how we can all make a difference in this world.  Our friend, Mark, and our neighbor, Adam, may not have set out to bless us yesterday, but when the opportunities arose, they did.  We are thankful.

I am also thankful that I didn’t allow myself to be consumed by all of the things I could’ve been doing if I had chosen to stay home.  For one thing, we wouldn’t have had to bother Mark.  Even then, though, I am learning that I need to take opportunities as they come.  Dave and I had lots of opportunity for uninterrupted conversation last night.  That’s a rare thing in my house.

Maybe once we get the tires replaced, the hay in the barn and the baler back to Mark, Dave and I can go out on a real date–one without temperamental equipment, speeding semis and creepy guys peering at us through the window.

Sending Off Sir Loin

While the solar eclipse is exciting news all over the U.S. today, we had some pretty big news of our own here on our little farm.

Our first steer went in for butchering today.

I remember the very first time we saw Sir Loin.  He was in a neighbor’s pasture, and we were told to go take a look at him.  Our neighbor wanted our heifer calf, Brisket, and wondered if we thought his young bull would be a fair trade.  Dave and I pulled over onto the grassy shoulder of our country road and sized up our neighbor’s offer.  The conversation went a little something like this:

Me:  He’s bigger than Brisket.
Dave:  He looks healthy.
Me:  He has a sweet face.
Dave:  I think he’s about 6 or 7 months old.
Me:  I hope he’s not aggressive.
Dave:  He’ll need to be castrated.
Thoughtful silence.
Me:  What do you think?
Dave:  Sure.

And that pretty much clinched the deal.  Later, after my favorite vet castrated the animal, I asked if everything looked good.  The vet replied with something like, “You guys made one heck of a trade”.  That was good news.

We immediately dubbed him Sir Loin and set about making his stay at Country Haven a healthy and enjoyable one.  He was even-tempered and relatively friendly.  He made buddies with our 4 month old heifer, Red Rose.  They became friends quickly and showed lots of bovine affection for one another.

Sir Loin was often the first to come running when I took a bucket of produce scraps or sweet potato vines to throw over the fence.  He loved his snacks, and would often follow and frolic alongside us on our evening walks around the pasture.  He was always willing to stop what he was doing for a fistful of red clover, and he intimidated more than one uninformed guest by intensely staring in their direction, snorting while not-so-patiently waiting for a fresh handout.

People have long asked if it would be difficult for me to eat Sir Loin, and I’ve always replied with a sound “nope”.  However, I will say that I will miss his presence.  He had a sweet disposition, and he was an asset to our little farm.  Having said that, we know that his purpose was to provide healthy, low-cost beef for our table.  Today was the day to begin the transition from field to freezer.

I am thankful for what I learned from Sir Loin, and I am thankful for the opportunity to experience growing our own beef.  As a special send-off, we were able to give him lots of his favorite treats over the weekend–mealy watermelons, cantaloupe rinds and corn husks, plus lots of fly-swatting and back-scratching to boot.  He sure did have it made while he was here.

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Lord, thank You for this new provision for our family.  Thank You for letting us have a hand in the process and for increasing our knowledge about growing good food.  May we share this beef in a way that brings You glory, showing the folks around us how big You love them! 

Flapjack

Last Sunday morning, I went out to take care of all of the young meat birds.  I had slept in until after 7:00 and was feeling quite refreshed.  The Cornish-X chicks are always so happy to see me, and they seemed even more eager to be fed this morning.  An extra 45 minutes of sleep for me meant a longer wait on breakfast for them.  They’re certainly fat enough already, so I knew they’d be fine.

I was wrong.

Apparently, a couple of the birds decided to attempt to make breakfast out of one of their young coopmates.  Now, keep in mind that these birds are out on fresh grass; they had plenty of green options to hold them off until their high-protein mash arrived.  Their impatience or self-centeredness–or whatever–made a pretty rough start for one little gal.

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This is Flapjack.  She’s looking pretty good right now, and we are thankful.  Last Sunday morning, though, she was a raw, bloody mess around her throat.  She had a one-inch flap of skin hanging, wide open, from her neck.  It was difficult to tell how bad her injuries were because of the blood, but I sprayed the wound with an aerosol bandage and separated her from the flock.  We will probably keep her separately for the duration of her stay here at Country Haven, which is only four more weeks.

This experience has made me glad that people aren’t chickens.  I mean, I can’t imagine living side-by-side with my fellow man and suddenly being ripped to shreds by someone else’s impatience or self-centeredness.  I mean, can you imagine what it would be like if people didn’t have the decency to just respect the folks around them even when they weren’t getting exactly what they wanted when they wanted it?  Can you truly imagine living in a world where people acted that much like animals?!

Yeah, so can I.

There are a lot of really good things about this life–plenty of green grass beneath our feet, so to speak.  It’s all a matter of focus.  We can choose to perpetuate the problems or to rise above and be part of the solutions.